Should Malala's Dad Be the One Getting the Nobel Peace Prize?

One year ago today, a young bearded Talib in Pakistan's Swat Valley boarded a school bus crammed with 20 girls and fired three shots heard 'round the world. In the 365 days since, Malala Yousafzai, the outspoken peace and education activist, has gone from lying in a hospital bed to addressing the United Nations on July 12, her 16th birthday, to now being the leading contender for the Nobel Peace Prize, whose winner will be announced on Friday.

But as much as the world loves Malala, could world peace actually be better advanced by awarding the prize to her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai? The founder of the girls' school Malala attended, he is an anomaly in his area of Pakistan -- a progressive man who understands the value of educating girls. Without her dad, there would be no Malala, the confident, literate, English-speaking activist. Instead, she would most likely be lost among the four out of five girls in her region who don't go to school.

As Adam Ellick, a filmmaker who created a documentary featuring Malala before she became a household name, told Time, "[This] is a story about a father and a daughter, more than a story about a girl." Describing Ziauddin's education activism, Ellick said, "Her father has a sort of revolutionary commitment to his cause. He is an incredibly unique and complex person."

But for the status of women to improve, men with Ziauddin's mindset can't be unique; they must be commonplace. The cold, hard reality is that in areas of the world where men tyrannically hold all power, the situation of women and girls will only advance if men voluntarily relax their vise-like grip over women. This is what AfPak Channel contributor Christian Bayer Tygesen refers to as the "realist perspective on human rights." What he wrote about Afghanistan can just as well be applied to Malala's Swat Valley: "All Afghan girls should get an education, but unless the men ease their repressive dominance, half of the population will never have the opportunity to exercise their human rights."

We can create rap videos honoring Malala and bestow her with the world's top prizes, but at the end of the day, it's often men who execute the kind of change Malala is advocating. Less than a century ago, American women got the right to vote because a critical mass of men experienced "indigenous preference shifts," to use Tygesen's term. And that was in a country where suffragettes could at least freely organize and take to the streets en masse.

Malala's father himself acknowledges the crucial role that progressive men play in accelerating social change in male-dominated societies. In remarks this March in London, in which he made an analogy to whites' support for Martin Luther King's activism, he said, "In a male-dominated society, change will come and change could be initiated by men.… The journey which girls can travel in 100 years, if they are accompanied by their male partners -- brothers, fathers -- it could be just a few years, five years, six years."

Ziauddin Yousafzai has faced death threats. He has had to sleep away from home in order to stay alive and protect his family. Awarding him the Nobel Peace Prize would send the message that men in male-dominated societies who swim against the current to advance education and the status of females will be supported and cheered. His passionate efforts should make him as much of a Nobel Peace Prize candidate as Malala is.

Photo: Andrew Burton/Getty Images


World Markets to Congress: You're Not Being Serious, Right?!

There's no end in sight to the standoff on Capitol Hill, and that had markets reacting with something of a nervous laugh on Tuesday.

If market graphs could speak, they might be asking lawmakers in Washington something like the following: "You maniacs! You're not actually thinking of going through with this are you?"

The lack of a resolution to the impasse in Washington has raised the very real prospect that the U.S. government might default on its debt, a reality reflected in the markets today.

On Tuesday afternoon, President Obama went before reporters at the White House to press his case for an end to the stalemate, one that would require recalcitrant Republicans in the House to back off their demands to roll back the president's signature health care overhaul. That has created a situation in which what seemed like the impossible -- that the U.S. government would stop paying its bills -- now seems possible.

Curious what a burgeoning era of political lunacy might mean for world markets? Here's your preview.

If Obama intended to calm investors' nerves with Tuesday's briefing, the results are likely to disappoint the president. As Obama engaged in a rambling, hour and a half-long back-and-forth with reporters, the Dow bounced around before continuing its slide on the day:

The standoff in Washington is also fueling a broad rise in market volatility. The graph below, courtesy of Businessweek's Joshua Green, shows the rise in one volatility index on the week. As for that MS Paint dollar sign, here's Green's explanation: "If you bet on higher volatility (VXX) after hearing Boehner threaten default Sunday, you've made a bundle."

Meanwhile, global markets are watching the situation in Washington with bated breath. Trading on the Nikkei futures market is pointing to a sharply lower opening on Asian markets, and the FTSE in London closed down 1.11 percent. Stocks across Europe closed down on the day, driven in large part by fears of a U.S. default. If worldwide losses weren't enough to drive home the implications of a potential U.S. failure to raise the debt ceiling, the International Monetary Fund also downgraded its global growth forecast on Tuesday, citing the risk posed by a U.S. default. Oh, and if that wasn't enough, Gallup's Economic Confidence Index, which measures Americans' confidence in the U.S. economy, saw its largest single week decline since the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers in 2008 set off a global recession:

As Dan Drezner wrote for FP on Tuesday, this economic news may actually play in Obama's favor and could serve as a key part of his negotiating strategy, forcing Republicans to budge in the face of heavy economic losses. But that's a strategy that's predicated on the idea that the Republicans realize the economic consequences of failing to raise the U.S. debt ceiling. That may not be the case.

Here's how Rep. Ted Yoho, a Florida Republican and one of the congressmen behind the current deadlock, assesses the consequences of a U.S. default: "I think, personally, it would bring stability to the world markets."

Spencer Platt/Getty Images